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A phytocannabinoid found in cannabis formed from the breakdown of THC. It tends to occur at higher levels in more aged cannabis. The first cannabinoid ever isolated from the plant in the 1880s, it was also the first to have its chemical structure solved in 1940. CBN binds weakly to the CB1 receptor and more strongly to the CB2 receptor. If taken orally, liver enzymes convert it to 11-OH-CBN, a cannabinoid with stronger activity at CB1 but weakly blocking the CB2 receptor.

With only limited modern clinical studies , little data exists in humans. The pharmaceutical company InMed claims, “using CBN at very high doses … hundreds of times higher than what would occur with topical dosing in humans [and] no adverse events were seen on central nervous system (CNS) function”. InMed is researching CBN for the treatment of glaucoma both via neuroprotection of the eye’s neurons as well as the reduction of intraocular pressure. They also announced Phase 2 clinical trials for a topical CBN cream to treat epidermolysis bullosa, a rare skin condition of fragile, blistering skin.

In animal studies, CBN works as a mild painkiller via the pain sensors and combines well with CBD to lessen pain in a rat model of facial pain. In a rat model of ALS, CBN delayed the onset of symptoms, perhaps by protection of the mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell). In a model of seizures, CBN was the most effective of the cannabinoids tested.

In cells of the immune system, CBN protected them from cell death caused by oxidative stress. In mice, CBN increased their appetite and in mice with allergies, CBN lessened the inflammatory airway response. CBN functions as an antibiotic against MRSA (the drug-resistant form of staph infection). CBN is currently in clinical trial for insomnia as well as use by healthy adults.

Timeline of Research

2022: How CBN to protect the mitochondria (powerhouse of the cell) by regulating oxytosis/ferroptosis (oxidative stress pathway)

Cannabinol inhibits oxytosis/ferroptosis by directly targeting mitochondria independently of cannabinoid receptors

2020: CBN the most effective in this model of seizures

Cannabis constituents reduce seizure behavior in chemically-induced and scn1a-mutant zebrafish

2019: In a rat model of facial pain, CBD & CBN worked together & separately

Cannabidiol, cannabinol and their combinations act as peripheral analgesics in a rat model of myofascial pain

2012: In mice, CBN increased their feeding, CBD decreased it & CBG had no effect
Cannabinol and cannabidiol exert opposing effects on rat feeding patterns

2008: CBN + CBC + CBG + THC show antibiotic activity against MRSA strains
Antibacterial cannabinoids from Cannabis sativa: a structure-activity study

2005: In mice, CBN as a significant tool against ALS

Cannabinol delays symptom onset in SOD1 (G93A) transgenic mice without affecting survival

2003: In mice with allergies, pretreatment with both CBN & THC helped lessen inflammation

Attenuation of the ovalbumin-induced allergic airway response by cannabinoid treatment in A/J mice

2002: In the pain signaling cells of a mouse, both THC & CBN reduced pain signals via the vanilloid receptors
Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinol activate capsaicin-sensitive sensory nerves via a CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptor-independent mechanism

2000: In B lymphoblastoid cells and fibroblasts deprived of serum, THC, CBN & other cannabinoids protected from oxidative cell death
Cannabinoids protect cells from oxidative cell death: a receptor-independent mechanism

1997: In mice infected with the severe lung disease Legionella pneumophila, THC injection increased mortality while higher levels of CBN & CBD did so only moderately – THC treatment resulted in high levels of the inflammatory cytokine IL-6

Psychoactive cannabinoids increase mortality and alter acute phase cytokine responses in mice sublethally infected with Legionella pneumophila

1981: CBN did not alter the blood profile of THC
Interactions of delta 1-tetrahydrocannabinol with cannabinol and cannabidiol following oral administration in man. Assay of cannabinol and cannabidiol by mass fragmentography

1980: CBN seemed to potentiate the effects of THC
Intercannabinoid and cannabinoid-ethanol interactions on human performance

1975: CBN did not change the effects of THC

Interactions in man of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. II. Cannabinol and cannabidiol

1975: In 5 humans, 50 mg CBN caused no heart changes but did alter the subjective passage of time
Effects of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabinol in man

1973: CBN at 20-400 mg produced no THC effects
Cannabidiol and cannabinol in man

1973: IV injections of CBN produced THC-type effects

A comparison of the pharmacological activity in man of intravenously administered delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabinol, and cannabidiol

1973: In a mouse model of seizures, CBD & THC were the most effective but CBN also helped
The anticonvulsant activity of cannabidiol and cannabinol

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